Jim Brown plays a taciturn African-American sailor in India trying to track down his friend’s killer. What he does find is a young boy (the very Indian-looking and sounding Ricky Cordell) whose father is apparently an American seaman who has never come back. Anyway, Brown eventually tracks down his friend’s killer, a drug smuggler played by Charles Horvath, but he is injured when attempting to make his move. The boy and his rather sad dancer/escort mother (Madlyn Rhue) take him in, nurse him back to health, and attempt to impart some karma-laced non-violence wisdom on the vengeful man. Yeah, that’ll work on Big Jim Brown, right? He does rather take to the boy, though, after earlier treating him somewhat coldly for interfering in his mission. Robert Coote plays Horvath’s wily British cohort.
Jim Brown is best known as a former gridiron star and blaxploitation icon, but unlike the Fred Williamson’s and Pam Grier’s of the blaxploitation movement, Brown’s movie career started pre-blaxploitation in “The Dirty Dozen” and a bunch of other films whilst he tried to find his niche. This 1969 film from director Steve Sekely (best-known for “Day of the Triffids”) was probably meant to soften Brown’s tough guy image and expand his range, but the mixture of revenge story (it almost sounds like a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie if you remove the Indian elements), kiddie pic, and multicultural romance is corny as hell and poorly dated. Brown is fine, especially when he lightens the hell up, but he was never going to be Sidney Poitier, and it’s easy to see why action movies and tough guy characters were more his thing. The sappier elements of the film don’t really play to his strengths (if you’ll pardon the pun) as an actor and he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the change terribly much. No one wants to see Jim Fuckin’ Brown getting all sensitive, karmic and multicultural do they?
Robert Coote has a few dastardly moments as a gentlemanly villain, but the rest is the shits. Madlyn Rhue is terribly unconvincing as an Indian woman (though she’s not the only one who looks like a ‘ringer’ to me), Ricky Cordell is both incompetent and irritating as her cutesy son (it’s a truly awful performance), and Charles Horvath is a poor man’s Jack Palance as the underused villain of the piece. And wait ‘til you get a load of his orange robe wearing henchmen. What the hell was up with those guys? All the cultural and spiritual nonsense about karma and such was probably a bit too simplistic even for the time and is now insufferably twee and silly (The boy’s uncle is reincarnated as a cricket? Really?).
Also known under the (absurd) title “Year of the Cricket”, the film isn’t convincing and never really engages. Filmed in Bombay, it looks pretty cheaply made despite nice scenery, and has some pretty poor dubbing at times. Based on a story by Mary P. Murray, the screenplay for this rather second-rate feature is by Robert L. Richards (“Act of Violence” with Van Heflin, and the popular “Winchester ‘73”) and Harold Clemins. It’s not hard to see why this one has largely been forgotten, even by B-movie standards.